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Most East European Countries Support US Position on Iraq

Secretary of State Colin Powell's address to the U.N. Security Council has been endorsed by 10 East European states that are seeking to join the NATO alliance.

The foreign ministers say Secretary of State Powell presented "compelling evidence" of Iraq's failure to disarm in his presentation to the United Nations.

In the words of the ministers' declaration, which was issued late Wednesday, "the clear and present danger posed by the Saddam Hussein regime" requires "a united response from the community of democracies."

The document was signed by the foreign ministers of Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Bulgaria, Romania, Slovenia and Slovakia, which have all been invited to join NATO, as well as the foreign ministers of Croatia, Macedonia and Albania, which also want to join the alliance.

Analysts say at least part of the motivation for the declaration was a desire by the 10 countries to show their support for the United States, which has strongly backed their bids for NATO membership.

Last week, ex-Warsaw Pact countries Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic, which joined NATO in 1999, signed a statement with five other European states in support of the U.S. policy toward Iraq.

But the declaration has led to a political dispute, at least in Hungary, where opposition groups say the statement could endanger the country's relations with France and Germany, both of which have expressed strong reservations about a military campaign against Iraq.

The Hungarian public also has their reservations. Opinion polls show that eight out of 10 of them are against a war with Iraq.